I am taking a look at when and how prophets are talked about in the Book of Ether (which is of course an abridgment by Ether, which is then translated and abridged by Moroni…). It’s interesting to me that while many prophets come to tell the people to repent, only the Brother of Jared and Ether have any sermons or experiences recorded (at least in our final version). Why? I was looking today at the list of chapter headings (see link here: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/ether?lang=eng) and that tells an interesting story when you read them one after another. (It’s also important to note another layer of editing here. Why are these things mentioned in the chapter headings, out of the things Moroni kept, out of the things Ether kept, out of the things which were written down?) A quick look at the chapter headings shows that the Jaredite story in the New World doesn’t even pick up until chapter 6. Chapter 7 mentions prophets coming, but a quick skim of the chapter shows that nothing of their message is included. Chapter 7 details the introduction of secret combinations. No prophetic words are included but Moroni himself takes an opportunity to warn the Gentiles. (Moroni, as a prophet, has a sermon included). Chapter 9, prophets come again, no names or sermons included. Chapter 10 does not mention prophets, but again Moroni includes a message that when the people are good they prosper. Chapter 11 mentions another war – and prophets again! but with no sermons. (So far prophets are in every-other chapter. I never noticed that before.) Then chapters 12 and 13. We finally get more detail about another prophet (even a name is new!) and lots of his words. (I love that he is explaining the Abrahamic Covenant to a people whose ancestors left the Old World before Abraham received it. That’s just awesome.) (And thoughts on that fact I added to this wiki – see the first two subheadings under “detailed discussion.”) And, chapter 12 also includes lots of Moroni’s own words. Interestingly, it is a record of his conversation with the Lord, parallel in that mere fact to the Brother of Jared’s vision near the beginning of the book. (Is there a big ol’ chiasm going on here?) And chapter 14 and 15 seem mostly to just finish out the storyline.
Now, I’m curious. Is there a pattern here?
The Book of Ether does begin and end with the degree that the Promised land is only for those who are righteous and those who are wicked will be swept off. Jared and the Brother of Jared see the decree about the Promised land as a gift, but at the end of the book that decree is ignored and we watch it fulfilled. So that’s an interesting parallel. I do think that the Brother of Jared’s vision and Moroni’s conversation are interestingly positioned. Moroni doesn’t describe that kind of vision, but he does describe a frank, open conversation with Deity! And interestingly, in Ether 12 Moroni has a request for God, and God says he has another plan. Hm. Anyway, and the middle chapters seem to alternate between message by Moroni and mention of prophets. And the skeleton all of this is hung on is of course the names of the kings and who’s fighting who. Interesting choice of skeleton actually. Why do we need to know all those names? Why spend so much time keeping track of the kingly line? Why not just say they had wars and people fought over the kingdom? Why kept track? Of all the things we could have been given to read, why that plus the Brother of Jared’s vision and Ether’s preaching/Moroni’s conversation (which is about his concerns about the Abrahamic Covenant, which is what Ether’s preaching is about, interestingly)? Why mention all the other stuff if the main weight is on these two ends? I can see the value in displaying the entire life of a people from start to finish, and the consequences of secret combinations etc. I see why the story is included, but why the detail of every king and every son who fought against that king, etc.? I don’t know I have any good ideas except that perhaps the genealogy of the man who ended up with the people of Zarahemla and the genealogy of Ether himself were important to the Nephites. (I only noticed last year that Ether was in the line of people who had been fighting for the kingdom, and instead of challenging the king he becomes a prophet to warns the king – cool huh?)
So what I’m coming too after these ramblings is that I don’t know that there is so much of a chiastic structure here as simply book-ends of a quick but consistent story. And interesting book-ends! The Brother of Jared and all his vision (and a promise we can have more of it), then lots of wars etc etc and then Ether/Moroni talking about the Covenant of Abraham and how that relates to the Jaredites, the Gentiles, and the remnant of the Lamanites/Nephites. What a crazy awesome little book it is!
Ah, well, the kids are up and Micah needs me now. But hey, two studies in the same week? Life’s definitely getting back to normal again! 😀